Talk:Fresnel zone

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needs more reliable sources....-- 02:10, 2 November 2006 (UTC)

what's the unit of r ? what about the fomula in metric ?

I guessed it is "kilobarleycorns". Probably wrong, I suppose. What are the widths of the subsequent Fresnel zones, those "annular rings"? What are the widths at other than the halfway point?
What do "maximum obstruction" and "recommended obstruction" mean? Gene Nygaard 04:29, 4 May 2005 (UTC)

This article needs to be generalized to include the optics usage. (Yes, I know, sofixit and all that. I don't have time right now, so I'll just mention it here for now.)--Srleffler 04:07, 21 March 2006 (UTC)

Any idea why the formula for the radius on this page gives a different multiplier (43.3 instead of 72.6)? EdDavies 12:36, 3 April 2006 (UTC)

The link to "this page" above appears to be no longer reachable, but I've seen 43.3 elsewhere and had the same question. See this page instead. The 43.3 multiplier (for the radius in feet and distance in miles) may be the "obstacle-free radius", which is often taken as 60% of the Fresnel zone radius. Can someone verify this? 21:50, 25 October 2006 (UTC) Gerald Reynolds

General formula is fine, but numerical values only for optics in free-space[edit]

I haven't even checked the accuracy of those numerical prefactors, but people should be aware that the concept of a Fresnel zone applies as well to *any* wave phenomenon (my own familiarity with it is in acoustics). I'll change the article if and when I have time, but (1)it should be mentioned that those numerical values which people have been quibbling over are specific to optics in free-space---other values will show up for acoustics problems---still others for other wave-types in different media; or, (2) there should be *no* numerical values given, and simply stress that the formula yields different results based on wave- and media-type. --Smoo222 03:20, 21 March 2007 (UTC)smoo222

zone/region ?[edit]

Should this page make any distinction between "Fresnel zone" and "Fresnel region" (commonly used in antenna theory)?

In antenna theory, the Fresnel region generally refers to a radial range of distances between the reactive near field (~2*lambda?) of an aperture, and the Fraunhofer region (2*D^2/lambda, where D is the largest dimension of the aperture). Within the Fresnel region, the radiation pattern of the aperture varies significantly with radial distance since the multitude of sources that constitute a given aperture cannot yet accurately be approximated as having a common phase center. 23:42, 21 March 2007 (UTC)Bill Shultz

This is written like a high-school science report. Please recast it in, at the very least, the passive voice.

Error in Attached Image[edit]

Currently there's a spurious '15m' above the '20m' on the bottom set of images. It seems to have been left in there by mistake. Xrobau 12:50, 10 September 2007 (UTC)

Article is written to refer only [or predominantly] to radio waves[edit]

The article, while apparently sufficient for radio transmitter/receiver problems, mentions almost nothing of other wave types, which of course the entire concept applies to. A specific example is that of mentioning "radio frequency line-of-sight": There is absolutely NO restriction to radio frequencies.

There is also a minor correction which should be made (I have no time to get it totally right), in that it is mentioned that "If unobstructed, radio waves will travel in a straight line from the transmitter to the receiver." This is true at some level of abstraction (that of infinitely high frequency -- the domain of "ray optics"), but *false in the domain where Fresnel zone concepts apply*. In other words, the Fresnel zone is exactly one of several concepts designed to deal with the fact that waves do not travel in straight lines, even when there are no obstructions!

Another suggestion (again, I'll fix it if/when I have time) is to mention the source/receiver reciprocity which is implied by the figures included in the article. For an arbitrary receiver location (imagine the _field_ from the source), the Fresnel zone does not pinch down as is shown in the figures. The "pinching" is a result of the _receiver's_ own Fresnel zone -- that is, its response to an oriented incoming plane wave because the receiver also has a finite width aperture, and an orientation. The cigar-shaped zone in the figures is the *product* of the individual Fresnel zones of the source and receiver, taken individually. Smoo222 (talk) 13:30, 31 March 2009 (UTC)Smoo222

Pronunciation discontinuity[edit]

Why is Fresnel pronounced "/frɛnɛl/ fre-NELL" in this article, but "(pronounced /freɪˈnɛl/ fray-NELL)" in the Fresnel lens article? Both refer to the same person. I'd fix it, except that I've always pronounced it /frɛz'nɛl/ (frez-nell). My attempt is probably incorrect, but it makes me unaware of which is correct. (talk) 06:05, 21 October 2010 (UTC)

It seems as if the pronounciation has been "fixed" in the Fresnel lens fashion while the correct (French!) pronounciation should probably be "/frɛnɛl/ fre-NELL"! (talk) 15:48, 4 February 2015 (UTC)

Question about phase information[edit]

I don't understand the assertion that an obstacle in the first Fresnel zone will result in an interfering signal 0-90 degrees out of phase, 90-270 degrees if in the second zone, etc.

In the first place, surely the phase change associated with a path that goes from one antenna to point P on the surface of the first Fresnel zone to the second antenna is 180 degrees (one half-wavelength path difference).

In the second place, there will likely be a phase change associated with the object causing the interference. For a specular reflection (e.g., a plane surface many wavelengths in extent, such as a flat roof), the phase change will depend on the angle of incidence, polarization and nature of the surface (e.g., dielectric, highly conducting, etc.) and can vary easily from 0-180 degrees. (talk) 22:25, 2 October 2012 (UTC)Douglas Liddell October 2, 2012

You are correct, this can be very confusing given that the information is erroneous. I saw a webpage that could be the source for this wrong information. I'll fix it to say 0-180 180-360 and so on and add that this is the path-length phase difference. Maxbezada (talk) 20:47, 30 January 2013 (UTC)

Isn't this statement self contradictory: "If a reflective object is tangent to the 1st zone, the electromagnetic wave will be shifted 180o because of the increased path length, undergo an additional 180o phase shift due to the reflection, and reinforce the direct wave at the receiver. Consequently, there should be no reflective objects in the 1st Fresnel zone."

I read it to say that reflections tangent to the 1st zone reinforce the direct wave, so don't have any reflective objects there. Seems like they would enhance the signal at the receiver so you should have many. Jimbo (talk) 01:57, 15 December 2016 (UTC)


Some of this might already be found in the article or in other comments but I think the article needs substantial clarifications to avoid confusions and misunderstandings.

"Fresnel zones result from diffraction by the circular aperture". No, diffraction by the circular aperture will cause sidelobes in the radiation pattern of circular antennas, but the Fresnel zones are independent of the antennas used (even though both could be important for the end result).

As I understand it the Fresnel zones describes areas of different path differences between the direct beam and an indirect beam that is scattered (e.g. reflected) from some position outside the line of sight. The article may actually say this but not in a very clear way. Since interference depends on phase rather than path differences the path difference is recalculated into a phase difference or difference in wavelengths, lambda. It needs to be clarified whether the zones refers to volumes (the introductory part describes the cross section of the first as circular and the subsequent as annular, which would require the zones to be volumes and a zone in 3D space would normally be interpreted as volume) or if they refer to the limiting surfaces, the distinction does not seem to be well made.

If it is the limiting surface Fn is the zone radius, but if it is a volume it is the outer radius of this volume.

If it is a surface the path difference will be an integer number of wavelengths for the even zones but 0.5*n*lambda for the odd zones. Below I will sometimes refer to the limiting surface as the surface to distinguish it from some zone volume.

If it is a volume the phase difference due to path difference will vary from (n-1)pi to n*pi in the n:th zone, which means that it could either be in-phase or out of phase or have some intermediate phase relation with the direct signal.

In addition to the path difference the scattering process can give rise to phase differences. Often reflexions will lead to a 180 degree phase shift making rays reflected from the n:th surface out of phase with the direct beam. Thus reflexions from the first surface could enhance rather than cancel the signal. Above the Brewster angle reflexions (for beams of vertical polarisation) will not change phase. Scattering may also lead to intermediate phase shifts (typically for lossy media near the Brewster angle) and the end result may also depend on phase shifts of the antenna outside the boresight direction (but since the Fresnel zones are often reasonably narrow compared to the main lobe of the antenna this may rarely be important).

The formula for the Fresnel zone radius appears to be an approximation. Although it is probably a very good approximation in most cases it is good to indicate this with a "curly equal sign" and to clearly state that the radius corresponds to a path difference of 0.5*n*lambda.

One reference that may be worth adding is: [1] (talk) 15:48, 4 February 2015 (UTC)

One of the Worst Technical Articles on Fresnel Zones[edit]

This article is wrong on many levels, including its reference to circular apertures and diffraction (concepts also associated with Fresnel, but having no relationship to Fresnel zones). Specifically, the stated formula is trivially derived based on the difference between the direct path length and alternate path lengths being a multiple of a half-wavelength between two points (i.e., the transmitting and receiving antennas):


Fn = The nth Fresnel Zone radius in metres

d1 = The distance of P from one end in metres

d2 = The distance of P from the other end in metres

= The wavelength of the transmitted signal in metres

The various Fresnel zone ellipsoids do not "define volumes in the radiation pattern of a (usually) circular aperture": they define the respective terminating surfaces for alternate path lengths that differ by the various multiples of a half-wavelength.

The Confusions section above alludes to this problem: I am declaring BULLSHIT. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 05:02, 27 May 2015 (UTC)

I would put it this way: the article tells you how to calculate an ellipsoid. What this has to do with wave transmission, reflection from obstacles, interference patterns, or anything like that, you'll have to learn elsewhere, because the author of this article is keeping pretty quiet on those points. But you can visualize the ellipsoid. (talk) 15:50, 10 June 2015 (UTC)


That was about the worst summary I've ever seen on an article. I know what fresnel zones are, and even I was confused after reading it. Bad phrasing, extraneous material, parenthetical extras, weasel words, ick. I just rewrote it from scratch and then tried to see if there was anything I left out that was in the original text that could be salvaged. I leave it up to someone else to make it more accurate, but I think now it is at least understandable. --ssd (talk) 04:50, 24 August 2015 (UTC)

Oh, and the illustrations are probably wrong too. --ssd (talk) 04:54, 24 August 2015 (UTC)

Assessment comment[edit]

The comment(s) below were originally left at Talk:Fresnel zone/Comments, and are posted here for posterity. Following several discussions in past years, these subpages are now deprecated. The comments may be irrelevant or outdated; if so, please feel free to remove this section.

It is not necessary to explain this in such technical terms.

Last edited at 23:53, 28 January 2007 (UTC). Substituted at 15:36, 29 April 2016 (UTC)

Shape around the antenna[edit]

The antennas are in the focal points of the Fresnel zone, not at its boundary, as stated in "The cross sectional radius of each Fresnel zone is ..., shrinking to a point at the antenna on each end." Petr Matas 14:37, 4 June 2016 (UTC)

Phase Analogy[edit]

The Fresnel zone is a difficult concept to visualize and understand because it involves quite a few different things such as phase, distance, deflection, cycles, multipath, polarity, etc., and it's even more difficult to explain. It may be easier to understand by using an analogy with something that one can sense (e.g. sound waves) rather than something one can only imagine (e.g. radio waves). I'll try an analogy for phase here.

Let's say Alfred is hammering a large nail into a hard piece of wood. He is hammering a blow at exactly one strike per second. Each strike of the hammer of the nail makes a very loud sound.

Let's say Bill is standing next to Alfred. We will call this Location X. We can imagine Alfred's hammer is the transmitter and Bill's ears are the receiver. Each blow of the hammer coincides with the sound Bill hears. The sound is in-sync.

Bill calls Alfred on his cell phone and Alfred answers it with his left hand as he hammers with his right hand. Bill holds the phone to his left ear. It's a perfect cellular network and the hammering Bill hears on the cell phone in his left ear is exactly in-sync with the actual sound Bill hears from his right ear. He hears the hammer in both ears at the same time.

Now let's place Bill several hundred meters away from Alfred. We will call this Location Y.

Alfred is still hammering, but now the sound doesn't coincide to the hammering. When Alfred strikes the nail, Bill hears it with his left ear via the cell phone, but Bill hears nothing with his right ear. But when Alfred lifts the hammer over his head, Bill finally hears the sound with his right ear. This is obviously because the soundwave moves so much slower than a light wave or a radio wave. As Alfred continues to hammer, the pattern remains the same. Instead of hearing the hammer hit the nail once per second, he hears it hit the nail twice per second. In fact, it sounds like the nail is being hit twice as fast. We can say the sound is out of sync.

Now let's move Bill several hundred meters away further still. We will call this Location Z.

Alfred is still hammering, but now everything seems fine just as it was in Location X. Bill can see Alfred hammering, and he can hear Alfred hammering in both ears at the same time. Each sound seems to coincide with the strike of the hammer. The sound is in sync.

The sounds are not the same sounds, they are not the same wave, but they are arriving at Bill's ears at the same time, and seem to be the same sounds.

So this in-sync and out-of-sync might be one way to visualize the concept of in-phase and out-of-phase. The sounds can be associated with the top of a cycle. When the same transmission arrives at a receiver from two different directions due to deflection, it's important that they arrive in-phase. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 13:35, 8 January 2017 (UTC) Mark The Droner (talk) 22:55, 10 January 2017 (UTC)Mark The Droner

Fairly Major Edit[edit]

This page has had major issues for over ten years now. I've read it several times, and although parts of it are very well written, other parts, even within the well-written parts, are poorly or downright badly explained using incorrect words and numbers. So after studying it for some time, I took it upon myself to rewrite parts of the first two sections. I also added a Polarity section, as it is impossible to conclude what happens to a signal bouncing in the Fresnel zone without discussing its polarity. Finally, I really don't like either of the first two graphics. Although they do give the reader an idea of the different regions of the Fresnel zone, there are errors in each which confuse the reader. For example, the first graphic shows n=1, but "n" is nowhere to be found in the graphic. And nothing in the explanation below the graphic makes any sense to me. In the second graphic, the placement of the numbers 1, 2, and 3 are nothing short of horrible and will do nothing but completely confuse the reader. Also, it shows the antennas touching the second Fresnel zone which is impossible. I would redraw both of these graphics but I have no such tools to do so. Perhaps somebody with such illustrative graphic tools and a sound understanding of the Fresnel zone regions could step in and replace these graphics. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Mark The Droner (talkcontribs) 12:03, 11 January 2017 (UTC)

I have done a major copyedit cleanup sweep to fix a number of problems, though more work is still needed, so I tagged some of the remaining problems which I did not have time to fix. I replaced the confusing and non-standard term "polarity" with the more technically-correct term "polarization" (attempting to Wikilink the former term revealed just how confusing the non-standard terminology was). I added a number of Wikilinks to further information on some basic technical terms when they are first introduced. I cleaned up the page layout somewhat, bringing it more into compliance with Wikipedia standards for readability and accessibility.
The WP:Tone of some sections needs to be copyedited for a more encyclopedic Wikipedia style. The number of footnotes needs to be increased beyond the paltry 3 ones at present.
As for improving the graphics, I agree that they need improvement, but I don't have the specialized skills to do this work. I suggest that the Wikipedia:Graphics Lab people be contacted, with specific requests to modify the existing diagrams or to create new ones. Somebody with technical expertise in Fresnel zones will have to work closely with a graphics specialist, unless somebody with both areas of knowledge can be found. Reify-tech (talk) 19:35, 21 January 2017 (UTC)
Ah, yes. (Looks like you forgot to sign). Good work. It has better organization and clarity. One thing that stands out for me though is in the opening sentence: "A Fresnel zone (/freɪˈnɛl/ fray-nel), named for physicist Augustin-Jean Fresnel, is one of a series of concentric [b]prolate[/b] ellipsoidal regions of space between and around a transmitting antenna and a receiving antenna system." It clarifies and confuses me at the same time. It defines what a zone is in that it can be any region. In other words, there are a near-infinite number of Fresnel zones surrounding an antenna system - it's not just one zone with multiple regions. That makes sense and I actually wasn't clear on that point. But I don't understand your apparent addition of the word "prolate" here. The word seems to describe every Freznel zone as that of a shape of a football standing on end. While I agree the entire series of zones together would resemble this, and many of the latter zones would resemble this, but it's misleading and confusing to describe it as (any) one of a series. For example, the first zone would certainly not resemble a football standing on end. It would resemble a football laying on its side. The truth is, a given zone could be prolate or oblate, but the zones together as a whole would be prolate. So I think the opening sentence is better with the word "prolate" omitted.
Re phase shift - it's difficult to describe without a graphic. I hope the use of degrees isn't confusing, as I'm using the word in terms of rotations of a circle (or cycle), not angles. Hence, 360 degrees is a full cycle, 180 degrees is a half cycle, 90 degrees is a quarter cycle, etc. And in this case, the words cycle and wavelength are synonymous. Thanks again. Mark The Droner (talk) 16:56, 21 January 2017 (UTC)
Yeah, I forgot to to sign; this is fixed now. To clarify, the words "prolate spheroid" describe a shape, not a spatial orientation. You may be conflating this term with the words "prone" or "pronate", the first of which means "lying face down". See the article Spheroid for details. The 3D shape of a Fresnel zone derives directly from the geometrical properties of a prolate ellipsoid in relation to reflections which maintain a constant path length (which directly affects phase). Regarding the graphics, the transmitter and receiver should technically be located at the two foci of the ellipse, and not at the very ends of the ellipse or outside of the closed curve. For a long, extended ellipse (a common occurrence in real-world situations), this may be a fine distinction that isn't easy to see, but reflections can cause constructive interference even from behind the receiver, for example. Reify-tech (talk) 19:35, 21 January 2017 (UTC)
Indeed. That fact was missing from the version of a couple weeks ago which is why I added the words "and around" to the opening sentence. After all, certain antennas such as a windsurfer and a parabolic wouldn't work if the Fresnel zone didn't surround the antenna system. Mark The Droner (talk) 13:55, 22 January 2017 (UTC)